Bill Hazel: “A day isn’t wasted if a good memory is created”

Find someone who is already doing what you want to and have the proper conversation with them on how do I get started. Don’t let fear hold you back. As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Hazel, […]

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Find someone who is already doing what you want to and have the proper conversation with them on how do I get started. Don’t let fear hold you back.

As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Hazel, President, Bill’s Grill Mobile BBQ. For over 20 years, Bill spent his days and nights driving commercial trucks. He would come home and relax by barbecuing. What went from a hobby has now grown to become Bill’s Grill. Bill Hazel is grillin’ up the best for Chicagoans everywhere with his food truck that’s bringing a hearty amount of BBQ on board. It’s Bill Hazel’s specialty, after all, as an ex-truck driver turned musician turned rib aficionado, he’s put the miles in to turn his passion into his full time gig. At a young age, both Bill and his wife Jorie showed a passion for cooking, and together, they took this hobby and turned it into a business. At Bill’s Grill, you’re getting meats cooked low and slow to retain that smoky aroma and flavor, so flavorful in fact you won’t need any sauce. Bill’s has been deemed “Mr. No Sauce At All” due to his perfected BBQ technique and signature rub. From BBQ spare ribs to rib tips, chicken wings and sausage links, each is cooked for a number of hours over cherry wood that only adds to the full bodied flavor. And no bonafide BBQ joint would be anything without homemade sides. Thankfully, Bill’s got ’em in spades, including grilled pineapple, okra and cool coleslaw. When Bill isn’t behind the grill, he’s mentoring other business owners to ensure that they will succeed and supporting them along the way.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I lived in Englewood (neighborhood in South Side of Chicago). After my mother passed away, I went to live with my grandmother.

What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

As an over the road truck driver for 20 + years, I cooked to unwind and invite friends over. And, people always asked me to cater their events. Then, I had a serious truck accident and couldn’t drive any longer. And, I saw the Food Truck Race on TV and the light bulb went off and I knew that I could turn my cooking hobby into a business. First, I would sign-up to have a booth at events to get my name out there. Then, I purchased a truck and had it built out with a grill and kitchen and hit the streets.

There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

I had to believe in myself that the cooking is delicious and I surrounded myself with the right people. I did a lot of research about licensed regulatory laws and restrictions.

What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?

Find someone who is already doing what you want to and have the proper conversation with them on how do I get started. Don’t let fear hold you back.

It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?

That was some of my biggest fears. What makes it fun is that I’m never in the same place. Because we are mobile, it is a different experience every time we go out. I have the ability to open or close anytime.

What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?

The joy is the fact that it is my business and others get to enjoy my cooking. The downside is that there are no paid vacation or sick days. Once the work has begun, we must not finish until it’s done. I have to deal with this as this is part of the daily aspect of running my own business.

Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

As a worker, I just wanted to do a good job. As a business owner, I want to be better than I was the day before.

Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?

Yes, three years ago the profit was slow. I changed the dynamic of the business to not only sell, but to cater on a larger scale.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We were trying to light the propane oven without proper ventilation. The gas built-up and when it lit we had an explosion. Thus, I burnt off my eyebrows.

Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?

I’m self motivated to be the best that I am and to be a great role model for my children.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I give back to the community by donating food and pride myself in making great memories for people.

What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would create a movement of self belief!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“A day isn’t wasted if a good memory is created.”

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to have breakfast with Warren Buffet.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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